When migrants cross the Southern border into Arizona, theyre often being guided by criminal smuggling groups. Known as the cartel, some migrants have called them mafia.

Migrants crossing near Sasabe this week tell us theyre fleeing discrimination or threats of violence in their home countries, but they also describe their journey to the U.S. as ugly and difficult.

[I was] thinking that we will die on the road, said Said Sow, a migrant from the African country of Mauritania.

He says it took him more than three weeks to get from there to Arizona.

There are many mafia, he explained. You see, we are taken by the mafia.

The mafia, they tell us, we have to just take the road. To make it in two hours. We go two hours, we do not see nothing. Three hours, four hours, one day. No food. Two days. No food. Three days They tell us two hours.

Gail Kocourek frequents this part of the border, along with other humanitarian aid volunteers and groups, to give migrants food and water.

The cartels not really interested in people if they dont have money, she told KGUN. And I think they kind of turn their backs on some of those folks and let them find their own way. Cause were finding them in odd places now Along the wall where we havent seen people before.

Sow claims he tried and failed to get a U.S. visa more than three times. In his mind, this trek became his only option.

Even if you know the risk and everything, but, you have no choice. You have to leave, he said.

For months, rival cartel factions have been fighting over territory just south of the border.

Last fall, that violence emptied out the border town of Ssabe, Sonora.

Kocourek says that residents are slowly returning, but still fearful of cartel activity.